Hans Christian Anderson once published a story called The Emperor’s New Clothes. Most of us are well familiar with the tale. A proud king is convinced to hire a pair of weavers to make him a new suit. They claim they can weave a material that will be invisible to those unworthy of their posts or “hopelessly stupid”. There is no such suit, of course, the weavers being con men and swindlers. Even though the suit is a hoax, no one wants to be seen as unworthy or stupid so they go along. The climax of the story is a grand parade as the King, clothed in his invisible suit, walks among his people. Everyone goes along with the charade, after all, who wants to look stupid. That is until one little boy cries out, “But he hasn’t got anything on.” The crowd takes up the refrain, the truth can finally be told. Anderson closes his story by saying, “The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”
We too can fall into the same trap of pride, thinking that we are okay, believing that no one else can see our faults, hoping that everyone goes along with our façade. Our invisible clothes can be woven from the fine fabrics of hubris and ambition. Or they can be cut from the bolt of religion with the striking colors of “we must be right because we all say so.” Our invisible clothes may be a patchwork of sin and shame with colors carefully chosen to hide our guilt – like the green of Adam and Eve’s fig leaves. Perhaps the most striking of all the invisible clothes are the false agreements expected today. They go something along the lines of “I’m ok; you’re ok” or “it doesn’t matter what you believe, only that you believe” or “it’s just the way I am”. No wonder we’re such a messed up lot.
As believers and followers of Jesus, we are to take off the clothes of our old life and put on new clothes for our new life. Paul speaks of this, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:5–17, NASB95)
Did you catch the things we are to take off and the things we are to clothe ourselves with? Here’s a bullet point list just to make things clearer.
|Take These off!
· Immorality – fornication
· Impurity – perversion and sexual sin
· Passion – strong lusts
· Evil Desires – jealousy and coveting
· Greed – Desire for material possessions
· Idolatry – Putting anyone or anything or any desire above God
· Wrath – Intense anger that is ready to strike out
· Malice – doing harm
· Slander – speaking harm
· Abusive Speech – vulgar speech
|Put These on!
· The new self, renewed in Jesus Christ
· Heart of Compassion
· Bearing with one another
· Forgiving each other
· Peace of Christ
· Word of Christ
What jumps out at you? What things do you have trouble taking off? What things do you struggle to put on? Did you notice that all of the items on the Take These Off list seem to be focused on me, myself, and I while most of the Put These On list are focused on others? I don’t know about you, but I often feel that this “To Do” list is impossible. Even remembering them all is somewhat of a challenge. So here’s what I hold on to – Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Ask yourself, does what I’m about to say or do glorify Jesus? Let’s not get all religious here. I’m not talking about spreading around hallelujahs like other do cuss words. Or avoiding XYZ while meeting the cultural expectations of my church family. But that in the everyday concrete moments of life, whether at work, at play, at home, in the marketplace, at church, or when I’m by myself that I consider whether my words, thoughts, and actions are centered on me or focused on others. The most important other being Jesus Christ.